Belgium’s transport minister resigned today (15 April) after being accused of ignoring damning EU reports on the poor state of security at the country’s airports that was laid bare by last month’s suicide attacks.
“Transport Minister Jacqueline Galant has offered her resignation to the king, which was accepted,” Prime Minister Charles Michel said after a cabinet meeting, according to a statement from the royal palace.
Galant, from the centre-right MR party (ALDE-affiliated), was under fire after the EU reports were leaked to media and following the shock resignation of a top transport official who accused her of incompetence and “Gestapo-like” behaviour.
Two Islamic State attackers blew themselves up in the departure hall at Brussels airport on 22 March in a first wave of coordinated attacks that also hit a Brussels metro station, killing a total of 32 people.
The EU reports only pertained to areas of the airport beyond security checks, but they pointed to “serious deficiences” in security including the tracing of explosive devices.
The latest report from 2015 said Belgium was still “non-compliant, with serious deficiencies” in five areas and “non-compliant” in three areas based on a visit to Antwerp airport.
Galant denied she was ever made aware of the reports that also said the relevant authorities were woefully understaffed.
But a top official said he had clearly notified Galant and her office on the matter.
Galant was also responsible for Belgium’s embattled air traffic control authority which was subject to strike action this week that caused hundreds of cancelled flights.
The European Commission, the EU regulator that drew up the report, declined immediate comment.
The Interior and Justice ministers of Belgium offered to resign following the attacks, but the Prime Minister Charles Michel asked them to stay on.
One of the Brussels attackers was caught in Turkey in June last year and deported to the Netherlands as a foreign fighter, but Belgium let him loose, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said yesterday (23 March).
Belgium’s interior and justice ministers offered to resign on Thursday (24 March) over the failure to track an Islamic State militant expelled by Turkey last year who blew himself up at Brussels airport on Tuesday.
Brussels airport said it would not reopen today (30 March) despite drills to test resuming partial services after the suicide bombings that struck its departure hall and a metro train, as Belgium lowered the death toll to 32.